Sunday, June 25, 2006

Secret to Success #3

Today I feel like crud. I won't go into the gory details of my illness, because it isn't actually an illness. If you suffer from migraines you'll understand. If you don't, I'll spare you my sob story.

I sent my kids and hubby off to church in the pouring rain and spent a half hour in absolute silence and darkness. It's a mark of author craziness that I am now woozily beginning to think about working on my manuscript.

Which brings me to writing secret #3 - consistency. Strangely enough, a lot of unpublished authors I talk to don't like this word. To them, it implies rigid structure and rigid structure somehow implies an inability to follow the muse. Being authors we've got to be able to write when that illusive muse strikes and wait in comfort and ease and angst when it flits away again. Right?

Wrong. Writing isn't about muse as much is it about consistent hard work. Because, like any other job, writing is work. If we don't embrace that before we're published, we're not going to last very long after we're published. Furthermore, we can't improve as writers if we aren't consistently practicing our craft.

To take this outside the writer's world, I'll use my eleven-year-old as an example. Jude has been playing piano for five years, and he is truly gifted. He loves and plays all kinds of classical music, plays at church, and competes at the local and state level. Jude's problem is that it's always been easy for him to learn music and play it well. This past year, he discovered that procrastinating (as he's done in previous years) isn't working as well. Sure he's gifted, but so are hundreds of other kids. Some of those kids know the importance of consistent hard work. Some, like my son, prefer to play at practicing. The music still sounds great to the untrained ear, but a judge can quickly tell the difference between those that have learned through consistent hard work, and those who are coasting by on their talent. Eventually, those that are working hard will far outshine those who are simply working when they feel passion and excitement over a particular piece of music. At some point, my son will have to choose - does he want to play at being a pianist or does he want to be one?

As writers we have to choose, too. Do we want careers, or do we want to follow the muse? If we want to follow the muse, then we can afford to spend six years writing a book. If we want careers, we need to build the habit of writing into our lives now. Even when our kids are young. Even when we're so tired we just want to veg in front of the television. Even when we really don't think we have the time. Consistency in writing creates authors who are prepared for the demands of publication, who have created habits that will allow them to fulfill contracts and (even more importantly) know how many contracts they will be able to fulfill. Consistency in writing is not a choice for those of us who truly want to succeed. It is a necessity.

If you're struggling with this issue, believe me when I say I understand. Balancing life and writing is a challenge we all must face. However, God does not give us gifts without gifting us with the ability to use them. Take time this week to find time. Look at your day. When does writing best fit in? If you can't pick consistent times (I know I can't) then choose a daily writing goal and stick to it. Muse or no muse. It's the only way to prepare for the day when you must not only produce wonderful stories, but produce them on your publisher's timeline.

5 comments:

Jennifer Tiszai said...

Ooh, sorry about your migraine. I get them too so I know how awful that can be.

And I agree with you 100% about consistency. It IS a lot more fun to play at being a writer than to sit your rear end in the chair everyday even when the muse isn't cooperating.

Dani said...

Great post, Shirlee. Consistency definitely is tantamount to having a writing career. Ever since I started a daily writing goal and forced myself to stick to it, my productivity (not sure if that's the right word) is a lot better :o)

SO sorry about the migraine. Those stink BIG time! Take care of yourself.

Dani

Sabrina L. Fox said...

Totally get the migraine thing. My husband doesn't. He thinks it's just a headache. Take some Tylenol. Right.

Anyway, very sound advice. I'll apply it this week that I'm off when I want to do nothing. =)

Lynette Eason said...

Hi Shirlee, I'll post here since my emails don't seem to be finding you...smile. Anyway, I am absolutely amazed at how much I've written CONSISTENTLY since I set a daily writing goal. I have one last part of my story to write and it will be finished. I am a little stuck on one small plotting part, but once I figure that out...and I will...it's all downhill from there...ha.

Anyway, thanks for the post. It hit home...ha. I decided I don't want to play at writing, I want to do the hard work it takes to get where God wants me to be.

And migraines...ugh...I know how you feel, unfortunately. I had one that lasted two weeks back in May...I got a new medicine called Maxalt...works pretty good if you haven't tried it yet...Blessings, I'll pray for you...

Lynette

Shirlee McCoy said...

Isnt it amazing, Lynette. When I'm working consistently, I always feel good, even when I haven't accomplished as much as I'd like.

I don't know what's going on with our email. It's really frustrating. I sent your new chapters. I guess you didn't get them?

So, how much did you all get done yesterday? My head still wasn't quite right (but, then, when is it?). I woke up at 2 feeling pretty bad, took some meds and within an hour was able to sit down and finish my 2000 words for yesterday. I wrote 2500 total yesterday. Today I'd really like to do 3000. We'll see.